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Unexpected niceties: Sentra’s premium appointments, style represent real value

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “All new” is probably the most overused – and disingenuous – phrase in all of autodom.

Slap on a new grille, add a new exterior color and alter the upholstery pattern and there you have it, the “all new” Dynamo LX for 2013.

Well, for once here’s a car that lives up to the claim. Nissan’s Sentra compact sedan truly is all new for 2013. And not only that: It also embraces another old automotive advertising cliché – it’s truly “longer, lower and wider.”

Wheels_j24Aug_InteriorThe Sentra first grabs your eye with its sleek, sophisticated exterior design. Echoing the look of its big brother Altima, only in a reduced size, Sentra cuts an upscale figure in the compact class. Its premium appearance is enhanced through details such as chrome door handles and trim, LED taillights, and class-unique LED headlight accents like those found on Audis, Lexus and other high-end vehicles.

The Sentra’s cabin extends the class-above approach with extensive use of high-grade, soft-touch materials on dashboard and door armrests; finely grained plastics carefully assembled; and easy-to-read electroluminescent gauges.

Our SL model upped the luxury quotient with the Leather Package that adds handsome, perforated seating, heated for driver and front passenger. This package also replaces the standard rear drum brakes with discs.

Sentra’s added width and length result in a welcome increase in passenger space and legroom, especially noticeable for rear-seat riders.

Often it’s the unexpected niceties that create an upscale aura, things as simple as sun visor extenders. Add to that the surprising lack of road and wind noise, thanks to the attention given to aerodynamics and the extensive use of sound deadening materials, which make the car seem more expensive that it is.

One small interior oversight: The padded, console storage-bin cover is located so far to the rear that it’s virtually useless as an armrest.

A new 1.8-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder engine powers the front wheels through a new-generation continuously variable automatic transmission. Nissan’s years of CVT development are paying off with smoother, quieter operation and greater fuel efficiency.

While 130 horsepower is at the lower end of Sentra’s competitors, it’s enough to power the 2,800 pound sedan with more-than-adequate alacrity. Others in this class may offer more oomph, but few can match the Sentra’s 30 city/39 highway fuel rating.

Sporty it may not be, but the Sentra delivers fine road manners, good looks and an upscale cabin, all at a user-friendly price. It’s called value, and there’s nothing new about that.

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